Trying to explain the plot of Kingdom Hearts is a fool’s errand. It’s a convoluted mess of retcons, lore-dumps, and the intense mash-ups between iconic Disney villains and anime nonsense. But making the attempt to recap the series thus far is Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory.
From the first moments building a raft on Destiny Island in Kingdom Hearts all the way through to the newest downloadable content for Kingdom Hearts III (actually the thirteenth game in the series because the naming convention here is as weird as the plot), this is a chance to revisit the most important moments of the series as narrated by Kaori, the occasional damsel in distress and keyblade master in training.
Our Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory Review
Like we’ve said before, Melody of Memory is a clip episode cleverly disguised as a rhythm game as well as a celebration of the iconic and epic music that has come from the Kingdom Hearts series. And there are some epic music in here. From the swelling trumpets of Olympus Colosseum to the brooding tones of Hollow Bastion, the music of Kingdom Hearts is front and centre throughout this game.
That’s not to say you won’t get to listen to some of the music Disney is rightly known for, but don’t expect a lot of musical numbers featuring Ariel or Cinderella. All the tracks in this game are from the Kingdom Hearts series and Disney is notoriously guarded when it comes to their music (though you will get to play through my absolute favourite scene in the whole series).
The gameplay is pretty straight-forward for a rhythm game. You visit worlds that represent different films in the Disney catalogue which have a number of songs from to play through. Inputs are generally limited to two or three buttons in normal mode, though increased difficulty will increase these inputs. Enemies approach Sora, Donald, and Goofy at a regular pace, representing the melody of the song you’re currently playing through.
There is a definite learning curve to the game and fans of the game’s music will have a much easier time clearing levels at higher difficulty than people like myself who lack the required rhythm to do well in games like this. I found myself getting too easily distracted by the pretty visuals and remastered environments of Melody of Memory to focus on the music and actually play the game.
This is definitely a game for long-time fans of Kingdom Hearts, both because Melody of Memory is essentially a recap of almost twenty years’ worth of story and because it does very little to ease you into the convoluted mess of Kingdom Hearts. Immediately it starts throwing out phrases like “heartless”, “nobodies”, and “replicas” and gives almost no context as to what they mean within the universe.
Melody of Memory is both held back and lifted up by the sheer scale of the series it is trying to sum up. It certainly couldn’t serve as an initial entry for new fans as every question it attempts to answer through the cutscenes comes with new terms and characters that are introduced without warning. However, as a long time fan of the series myself, I appreciate watching the key moments played out again and confusing myself to try to remember what was actually going on.
To be honest, at this point I adore the Kingdom Hearts series despite its best efforts to scare me off and Melody of Memory is as much a celebration of that bonkers plotline as it is of the music itself. It certainly won’t do much to bring in new fans, but it will bring a smile to your face if you’ve been on this adventure with the characters up to this point.
A word of warning, though. In classic Kingdom Hearts style, they have hidden important plot points toward the end of this game. But this is the series that explained major lore in a browser/mobile game so that shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory Review Verdict
Melody of Memory is a competent if simple rhythm game that serves as a solid recap of the series for existing fans, making it a worthwhile purchase if you’ve followed the escapades of Sora, Donald, and Goofy through the years. However, it does showcase how impenetrable the plot has become, but even seasoned fans will get enjoyment out of the confusion. Its what we’ve done all this time anyway, right?